UK maternity review highlights importance of family friendliness

families birth

A national maternity review and five-year forward plan in England, Better Births (2016), presents a family inclusive approach, combined with “woman centredness”.

“Personalised care, centred on the woman, her baby and her family, based around their needs and their decisions, where they have genuine choice, informed by unbiased information.

Services should be designed in a way that puts women, their babies and their families at the centre.”

The report recognises the unique long-term influence that maternity services can have, standing at the start of a new family life:

“For mothers and the wider family, pregnancy may be the first time they have sustained contact with health services and so presents the ideal opportunity to influence their life style and to maximize their life chances. It is therefore vital that families in England are supported by high quality maternity services which cater for their needs and support them to begin their new lives together.”

The report describes a vision of maternity care that is personalised, kind and family friendly. It opens with this sentence:

“The birth of a child should be a wonderful, life-changing time for a mother and her whole family.”

The report recommends the involvement of a woman’s partner or other family members in drawing up a plan, particularly when there are complications, at the same time as recognising that occasionally, a family cannot be included in this way.

The report refers to father in particular on a couple of occasions, referring to the way they are easily marginalised by maternity services, thereby undermining the possibility of partnership between professionals and families in the care of mother and baby.

“I [the Minister of Health backing the report] met with fathers, who gave me an insight into how they feel and what matters to them – so often forgotten but a vital part of the picture.

Some fathers told us that they had felt excluded, that their role had not been recognised and so opportunities were missed to support the family and to have as positive an experience as possible. Some women told us that they relied on their partner to support them in pregnancy and with the care of the baby and the NHS needed to recognise this and help their partners to help them.”

Header photo: Jake Slagle. Creative Commons.